Good Reading : October 2004
BOOKBITE the problem with both my ex-wives. They were pretty enough, but not clever enough.” I didn’t point out that they were clever enough, in the end, to become ex-wives. I remained silent and hoped that it would encourage him to do the same. “There’s a large clearing with a big anvil-shaped rock which I’ve marked out for an instrument field,” he said. “We’ll be stopping there.” We trudged through the forest.The rain lightened to drizzle. Magnus broke a shoelace and stopped to fix it. I told him I’d meet him at the site, rather than wait with him and chance another uncomfortable conversation. I had just arrived at the clearing and was setting down the box when he ran up, panting, behind me. “Did Gunnar bring you here?” he asked. “Sorry?” “I didn’t tell you where the clearing was.”I must have stared at him for a full ten seconds without speaking. “Victoria? Is everything all right?” “Yes,” I said. “Gunnar brought me here.”This was entirely untrue, but it was all I could say because I couldn’t otherwise explain how I had found the place with- out Magnus’s help. As we set up the instruments, I rewound the journey in my head. Magnus had described a clearing, an anvil-shaped rock. I had been preoccupied with his creepiness. But, if I concentrated hard, I could remember knowing where to go the instant he described it. So how had I known? Gunnar had certainly not brought me here.We were at least half a mile south of the route Gunnar had shown me to the beach. I stood up for a moment and looked around. Sensations washed over me: familiarity, fear, longing. Dizziness rushed down my body. I heard Magnus’s voice. A moment later, he caught me under my elbow and lowered me to the ground. “Put your head between your knees,” he was saying. I did as he instructed and the blood throbbed in my temples, my thoughts sharpened and became clear again. “Are you feeling better?” Magnus asked. “Ah . . . yes.Thank you.” “Did you eat this morning?” “No.” “Make sure you always eat something before you come out to do field work.” “Yes, I will in future.” He crouched on the forest floor next to me, watching me closely. “Your colour’s coming back, but I think you should go to your cabin and rest. Carsten should have rostered you another day to recover from those late shifts. It can be hard on the sys- tem at the beginning.” I nodded, but didn’t venture to say anything. I had an overwhelming urge to cry. “Here, let me show you something. It will cheer you up,” Magnus said with his boyish smile. He opened his palm and a dirty fragment of metal sat on it. “What is it?” I asked. “I found it just now while making a hole for a transpiration sensor. It’s a piece of the past.” “I don’t know what you mean.”An inexplicable feeling of dread stole over me as I considered the object. “Forged iron doesn’t just show up spontaneously in forests,Victoria.This is part of something left here by previ- ous residents, maybe a thousand years ago.” He considered the fragment care- fully. “It might be a pot or a piece of jewellery.” It’s not a pot; it’s not jewellery. I said nothing, watching Magnus, wondering what bizar re mental illness had gripped me. “I’ll keep it for Gunnar.” He slipped it into the pocket of his anorak and stood, reaching down to help me up. “He collects old bits of rubbish like this.” “I’m fine,” I said, as he put his ar m around my waist. “No, let me take you back to your cabin.” We left the forest behind. I had read that the feeling of déjà vu was caused by a misfiring in the part of the brain responsible for recognition, causing a sensation of memory which was not genuine. I wondered if the sudden change my life had taken, accompanied by sleep deprivation and anxiety, had caused a similar misfiring in my brain. I had never been here before. It felt astonishingly familiar, but I had never been here before. How had I found the clearing? Simple. Magnus had been tending in that direction; I simply kept heading south-east and the clearing was there. And the cold fear I felt looking at Magnus’s “piece of the past”? Some kind of projected fear which produced an uncanny certainty that I knew what that metal fragment was. A piece of a murderer’s axe. Extracted from Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins. Copyright © Kim Wilkins 2004. Published by HarperCollinsPublishers, rrp $29.95 50 goodreading I had never been here before. It felt astonishingly familiar, but I had never been here before. How had I found the clearing?